Buying a car is a major investment, and it’s important to ensure that you are purchasing a vehicle that was acquired legally. Unfortunately, there are instances where vehicles are sold illegally, leaving the buyer in a difficult position. If you have unknowingly purchased a stolen vehicle, there are steps you can take to address the situation.
Identify If You Bought A Stolen Car
The first step in dealing with a stolen car is to determine if the vehicle is indeed stolen. This can be done by checking the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) against a national database of stolen vehicles. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) maintains a free database of stolen vehicles that can be accessed online. The NICB also offers a VINCheck service that allows you to check if a vehicle has been reported stolen.
Contact The Police
If you have determined that you have purchased a stolen car, the next step is to contact the police. Provide them with the VIN and any other identifying information about the vehicle, as well as any documentation you have related to the sale. The police will investigate the matter and may work with you to recover the stolen vehicle.
Contact Your Insurance Company
If you have insurance on the vehicle, contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the situation. Your insurance company may be able to help you recover the vehicle or compensate you for your losses.
Work With The Seller
If you purchased the vehicle from a dealership, contact them immediately to report the situation. If the vehicle was sold by a private individual, try to contact them to discuss the matter. In some cases, the seller may have been unaware that the vehicle was stolen and may be willing to work with you to resolve the situation.
Consider Legal Action
Depending on the circumstances, you may want to consider pursuing legal action against the person or entity that sold you the stolen vehicle. Consult with a lawyer who specializes in this area to determine the best course of action for your situation.
Protect Yourself In The Future
To avoid purchasing a stolen vehicle in the future, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Always verify the VIN of a vehicle before purchasing it, and ask for documentation that proves ownership. If you are purchasing from a dealership, make sure they are licensed and reputable. When buying from a private individual, be sure to meet in a public place and conduct the transaction during daylight hours.
Discovering that you have purchased a stolen vehicle can be a frustrating and stressful experience. However, by taking the appropriate steps, you can work to resolve the situation and protect yourself in the future.
- Can I get my money back if I discover I bought a stolen car?
Yes, if you have purchased a stolen vehicle, you may be able to recover your money. Contact your insurance company and consider pursuing legal action against the seller.
- What should I do if I suspect a car I am interested in buying may be stolen?
Before purchasing a vehicle, always verify the VIN and ask for documentation that proves ownership. If you suspect a vehicle may be stolen, contact the police.
- How can I protect myself when purchasing a vehicle from a private individual?
When purchasing from a private individual, be sure to meet in a public place and conduct the transaction during daylight hours. Verify the VIN and ask for documentation that proves ownership.
- What is the penalty for knowingly selling a stolen vehicle?
The penalty for knowingly selling a stolen vehicle varies by state and can include fines, jail time, and restitution to the victim.
- Can I be held liable if I unknowingly purchased a stolen car?
While you may not be held criminally liable, you may be required to surrender the vehicle to the rightful owner and may not be entitled to compensation for any money you paid for the stolen vehicle.